How to Tell the Sex of a Canary

Written by susan lee
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How to Tell the Sex of a Canary
Determining the sex of a canary can be confusing. (Canary in a cage image by Tsahi Moscovich from

The canary is a beautiful little bird with a melodic sound. It is a small bird in the finch family, native to the Canary Islands with a lifespan of 10 to 15 years. Canaries come in varying colours of yellow and green, though birds in captivity can be a variety of colours, such as shades of peach and orange. Canaries make a great pet and if you are breeding them, there are ways to determine the sex of the birds from the time they are in the nest.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Place the chicks on a perch or some surface they can hold onto, and observe their behaviour. Tap your fingers around the canaries. Most often, the males will scurry away while the females will not budge. This can also be performed while the birds are in the nest. When you tap the nest, the females will just look at you while the males will stick their heads down with their behinds in the air.

  2. 2

    Determine the toes on your canary at the time of banding. Canaries are usually banded male or female once fledged from the nest. The male will have a longer central toe while all toes on the female are equal in length.

  3. 3

    Observe if your canary lays any eggs. Obviously if your bird does lay an egg, it is female and should then be banded as such.

  4. 4

    Hearing a bird sing used to be a foolproof sign that it was a male. However, this is not necessarily true until the bird is more mature. When chicks are young they may all sing. When mature, the male will develop what is called a "plastic voice" where it incorporates adult phrases and passages into its song rather than just making tweeting noises.

  5. 5

    Examine feather colour and texture on the bird. Males have thinner, more brightly coloured feathers while the female feathers are wider and muted in colour.

  6. 6

    Examine the vent area on the bird which is the locale of the sex organs. The only time to do this is when the bird is ready to breed. The female vent will appear oval and flat or slightly rounded and the male will have a pseudo-penis which sticks up and is about the size of a new pencil eraser, though a bit longer.

  7. 7

    Bring your bird into the veterinarian if you want a quick and definitive determination.

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